Thursday, April 30, 2009

Nature is a condition of mind, not the reverse

The Correlationism Debate Continues
from Larval Subjects by larvalsubjects

Those of us on the realist side have been charged with “misreading Kant” or “misinterpreting him”, but all we’ve done is take him at his word. For in order to account for times prior to life and especially humans, we have to posit a time belonging to things themselves. But this is explicitly forbidden by Kant’s position. Claims pertaining to things in themselves cannot but appear dogmatic to the Kantian. [...]

The issue is that according to the well supported theories of evolution and neurology, Nature is a, if not the, condition of mind, not the reverse. But the correlationist claims just the opposite: that mind is the condition of Nature, not the reverse. Nature, for the correlationist, is purely a phenomena such that the idea of phenomena giving rise to the conditions (mind) is not intelligible or consistent. If all of these distinctions are being flattened then this is because this flattening is what is required of by our best biological theories concerning the emergence of life and the human. This would be a prime example of a situation where our science requires a significant revision of how certain philosophical problems have been posed, but strangely, oddly, this gets ignored by a certain style of philosophy as if these discoveries make no difference and we can continue talking about the world blithely as if Darwin makes no difference as to how we conceive the nature of mind.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Latour presents a new philosophical epistemology and ontology consistent with a realist position

Latour: Hybrids from Larval Subjects by larvalsubjects

Over the next few weeks I will, as time permits, be writing a commentary on Bruno Latour’s wonderful We Have Never Been Modern. In part, this is in preparation for the final release of Graham Harman’s long awaited Prince of Networks. If Graham’s study of Latour is so unique and exciting, then this is because he approaches Latour not as a sociologist, but as a philosopher.

In form of reading not unlike Deleuze’s approach to Foucault or to great artists, novelists, and cinema, Harman reveals a highly original– and relevant –philosopher in his own right. Thus, extending the comparison of Graham’s Prince of Networks to Deleuze’s Foucault, Deleuze in his great Foucault book, approaches Foucault’s thought not as a series of historical or sociological analyses of various things such as madness, discipline, the human sciences, etc., but rather as the work of a great philosopher proposing a very new and highly original account of the nature of knowledge.

While Deleuze certainly touches on all of Foucault’s great archeological and genealogical studies, it is this question of the nature of knowledge that is at the heart of his book. Likewise, while Graham certainly delves into Latour’s various sociological investigations, his approach to Latour is so unique insofar as he reads Latour primarily as a philosopher proposing a new ontology. In part, I am also writing on Latour as I will be teaching We Have Never Been Modern for the first time and this will help me to prepare for that course.

However, finally, I am undertaking this close reading of We Have Never Been Modern because, with Graham, I think Latour presents a new philosophical epistemology and ontology consistent with a realist position, but which also allows us to retain the best of a critical tradition arising from sociology and Continental linguistic philosophy from the last century.

Realism and Correlationism: Some preliminaries
from Grundlegung by Tom

Over at Larval Subjects, Now-Times and Perverse Egalitarianism there has been a fractious debate regarding realism which has gone on for some time. This is in the wake of ’speculative realism’ coming to increased prominence, under the influence of Quentin Meillassoux, Ray Brassier, Iain Hamilton Grant and Graham Harman. This realism has been contrasted with a correlationist position, which is taken to infect much contemporary philosophy.

Meillassoux introduced the term ‘correlationism’ to describe a non-realist position which claims that “we only ever have access to the correlation between thinking and being, and never to either term considered apart from the other.” (AF: 5) As Meillassoux also puts it, the correlationist denies that it is possible to ‘consider’ the realms of subjectivity and objectivity independently of one another. Of course, this could mean any number of things. Whether correlationism proves to be a useful philosophical category depends upon how this claim is spelled out.

Kant is supposed to be the paradigm correlationist. This is because Kant was meant to disallow us knowledge of any object subsisting ‘in itself’. Instead, knowledge was to be restricted to objects as they are ‘for us’. Thus, Kant is said to have eroded the pre-critical distinction between primary and secondary qualities, since even central candidates for the status of primary qualities (such as its mathematisable ones) must be “conceived as dependent upon the subject’s relation to the given — as a form of representation.” (AF: 4)

Does Kant’s position get fairly characterised by the new realists? A lot of acrimony has resulted from the attempt to answer this question in discussions between Levi, Alexei and Mikhail. Both sides are now pretty entrenched, and that is when they are on speaking terms. I don’t want to reignite these ‘Kant wars’ but I will offer some comments on this issue in the next few posts.

Realism and Correlationism: Kant and the Short Argument
from Grundlegung by Tom

A final thought on the question of metaphysics. The metaphysics which Kant seeks to cut down to size is an unbridled rationalism. But speculative realism has typically championed a kind of empirical metaphysics. It seeks to be porous with respect to scientific discovery: it is science which is to be the leading-edge of ontology. I have some limited sympathy with this approach with respect to certain theoretical endeavours, and agree that on the whole there is no need for a metaphysical grounding for science, provided by philosophy. However, I wonder quite how speculative realism will come to understand the status of its own metaphysical claims.

Alexei has raised the problem of normativity in this area: does a radical materialism have the resources to account for its own justification? We are all naturalists now — after a fashion, at least. But speculative realists have adopted a particularly strident form, which does not seem to be friendly to normativity. Just witness Ray Brassier’s Nihil Unbound. Can it understand, or sufficiently redescribe, the context in which it puts forward its own theory, such that it can allow that such a theory is meaningful, justifiable and truth-apt, whilst cleaving to a sparse materialist metaphysics which admits values, if it all, only in an anti-realist fashion? I will have more to say about this at a later date.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Written in a style that marries great clarity of expression with argumentative rigour

After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency (Hardcover) by Quentin Meillassoux (Author), Ray Brassier (Translator), Alain Badiou (Introduction) Key Phrases: aleatory reasoning, ancestral statement, contradictory entity, Critique of Pure Reason (more...) (1 customer review)

Editorial Reviews
Review "Talented and exciting new voice in contemporary French philosophy" -- Bookseller Buyers Guide

'In his clearly argued essay, now available in an excellent English translation, the French philosopher Quentin Meillassoux shows that subjectivity and objectivity must be conceived of independently of each other ... It is a truly philosophical work in that it develops the original idea of a speculative materialism with uncompromising passion and great consistency.' -- Alexander Garcia Düttmann, Professor of Philosophy and Visual Culture, Goldsmiths University of London, UK

'Rarely do we encounter a book which not only meets the highest standards of thinking, but sets up itself new standards, transforming the entire field into which it intervenes. Quentin Meillassoux does exactly this.' -- Slavoj Zizek

'You may entirely disagree with the author's solution (I do) but not with the courage with which he proposes to escape from the prison of discourse and to put the much abused metaphor of the Copernican Revolution right at last.' -- Bruno Latour

Product Description
From the preface by Alain Badiou:
It is no exaggeration to say that Quentin Meillassoux has opened up a new path in the history of philosophy, understood here as the history of what it is to know ... This remarkable "critique of critique" is introduced here without embellishment, cutting straight to the heart of the matter in a particularly clear and logical manner. It allows the destiny of thought to be the absolute once more.

"This work is one of the most important to appear in continental philosophy in recent years and deserves a wide readership at the earliest possible date ... Après la finitude is an important book of philosophy by an authnted emerging voices in continental thought. Quentin Meillassoux deserves our close attention in the years to come and his book deserves rapid translation and widespread discussion in the English-speaking world. There is nothing like it." --Graham Harman in Philosophy Today

Quentin Meillassoux's remarkable debut makes a strikingly original contribution to contemporary French philosophy and is set to have a significant impact on the future of continental philosophy. Written in a style that marries great clarity of expression with argumentative rigour, After Finitude provides bold readings of the history of philosophy and sets out a devastating critique of the unavowed fideism at the heart of post-Kantian philosophy.

The exceptional lucidity and the centrality of argument in Meillassoux's writing should appeal to analytic as well as continental philosophers, while his critique of fideism will be of interest to anyone preoccupied by the relation between philosophy, theology and religion.

Meillassoux introduces a startlingly novel philosophical alternative to the forced choice between dogmatism and critique. After Finitude proposes a new alliance between philosophy and science and calls for an unequivocal halt to the creeping return of religiosity in contemporary philosophical discourse. See all Editorial Reviews

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Besant, Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo, Tilak, Ranade, and Gokhale

Book Reviews : Richard G. Fox, Gandhian Utopia: Experiments with Culture. Boston: Beacon Press, 1989, 330 pp. Cloth $ 27.50
David L. White Journal of Asian and African Studies, Jan 1991; vol. 26: pp. 160 - 161.
...orientalized India into a strength. He was assisted in doing so by Bengali and Bombay experimenters like Besant, Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo, Tilak, Ranade, and Gokhale. Adopting their concepts of affirmative orientalism, spiritual revolution, reliance on indigenous... Check item Full Text (PDF) Table of Contents MatchMaker

Ritualistic tolerance and ideological rigour: the paradigm of the expatriate Hindus in east Africa
Agehananda Bharati Contributions to Indian Sociology, Jul 1976; vol. 10: pp. 317 - 339.
...east African Hindu milieu. Some two or three dozen elitist families in east Africa identify themselves as followers of Sri Aurobindo, and a probably much larger number looks to Sathya Sai Baba for charismatic inspiration. But these are well-identifiable... Check item Full Text (PDF) References Table of Contents MatchMaker

Malaysia and Singapore
Ooi Boo Eng The Journal of Commonwealth Literature, Jan 1976; vol. 11: pp. 94 - 99.
...Rd., Calcutta 700029, Rs3.00. Annual sub., Rs6.00; publishes Indian poetry; twice annually. The Advent, XXXII, I-4. Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry 605002, RS2.00. Annual sub., Rs7.00; quarterly. The Aryan Path, XLIV, 8-9, XLV (I974 token issue... Check item Full Text (PDF) References Table of Contents MatchMaker

An Annotated Select Bibliography
Current Sociology, Jan 1973; vol. 21: pp. 129 - 178.
...Prophet of Indian nationalism. London, George Allen & Unwin, 1963. Interesting study of the background and ideology of Sri Aurobindo Ghosh and his debt to Herder, Fichte and the German Romantics, as well as to traditional Indian thought. 24 Snyder... Check item Full Text (PDF) Table of Contents MatchMaker

Book Reviews : MOHD. ABDUL WAHEED KHAN, Brief History of Andhra Pradesh, Hyderabad. State Archives, Government of Andhra Pradesh, 1972, Pp. 131. J. MANGAMMA, The Rate Schools of Godavari, Regular Monograph Series of State Archives No. 3, Hyderabad, Government of Andhra Pradesh, 1973, Pp. 100
Dharma Kumar Indian Economic & Social History Review, Jan 1977; vol. 14: pp. 574 - 575.
...and colleges. Tagore and Aurobindo also initially interested...Did Tagore, Gandhi, and Aurobindo generalize from their...realistic are Tagore's or Aurobindo's ideas on education in...round a craft or about Sri- niketan where an attempt... Check item Full Text (PDF) Table of Contents MatchMaker

The Study of South Asian Religion in the 1980s
Dermot Killingley South Asia Research, May 1991; vol. 11: pp. 1 - 15.
...The Forest Monks of Sri Lanka. Delhi : OUP...Buddhist nuns in Sri Lanka ', SAR, 4, 32-49...McElvaney, M., 1988. Aurobindo and Zaehner on the...Buddhist nuns in Sri Lanka', SAR, 4, 32...McElvaney, M., 1988. Aurobindo and Zaehner on the... Check item Full Text (PDF) References Table of Contents MatchMaker

Human Values in the Plays of Klidsa: Some Glimpses
Shekhar Sen Journal of Human Values, Apr 1996; vol. 2: pp. 3 - 18.
...impurities and leaves behind what is pure, noble and exalted. In 'Sri?g?ratilakam', the poet says that pleasure cannot be obtained...says 'the joy that follows grief gains richer zest '. Rishi Aurobindo comments in `Savitri': 'None can reach heaven who has not... Check item Abstract Full Text (PDF) Table of Contents MatchMaker

Corporate Gita: Lessons for Management, Administration and Leadership
Subhash Sharma Journal of Human Values, Oct 1999; vol. 5: pp. 103 - 123.
...with the Gita (Chennai: Sri Champalal Savansukha While Tilak, Aurobindo, Vivekananda and many, including Tilak, Aurobindo, Subhash Chandra Bose and...with the Gita (Chennai: Sri Champalal Savansukha Public... Check item Abstract Full Text (PDF) References Table of Contents MatchMaker

Abstracts —Volume 34
Journal of Asian and African Studies, Jan 2000; vol. 35: pp. 449 - 457.
...a revival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka and India. Though in...The Buddhist revival in Sri Lanka led by Anagarika Dhammapala...that extends him beyond Aurobindo and Gandhi, taking him outside...OF WOMEN: A COMPARISON OF SRI LANKA AND MALAYSIA BARBARA... Check item Full Text (PDF) Table of Contents MatchMaker

Book reviews and notices : ARVIND SHARMA, Hinduism for our times. Delhi: Oxford, 1996. 116 pp. Notes, index. Rs. 225
C.N. Venugopal Contributions to Indian Sociology, May 1998; vol. 32: pp. 133 - 135.
...Tillich, K.N. Jayatilleke and Walpola Sri Rahula. He has made a, a contemporary of Gandhi was Aurobindo, who too gave a new interpretation...Hinduism seem to be akin to those of Aurobindo in some respects, though he has shown... Check item Full Text (PDF) Table of Contents MatchMaker

Recuperating Masculinity: Hindu nationalism, violence and the exorcism of the Muslim 'Other'
Thomas Blom Hansen Critique of Anthropology, Jan 1996; vol. 16: pp. 137 - 172.
...present-day Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka), images of the god Ram, saffron...Renaissance in Bengal, Arya Samaj, Aurobindo and Tilak. This heritage had posed...etc. as found in Vivekananda and Aurobindo: This was not the case with the Punjabi... Check item Full Text (PDF) References Table of Contents MatchMaker

The Functions of Hindu Social Reformers— With Special Reference to Kerala
Charles H. Heimsath Indian Economic & Social History Review, Jan 1978; vol. 15: pp. 21 - 39.
...century Bipin Chandra Pal, Aurobindo Ghose, Swami Vivekanan- da...indeed, were inspired by Sri Narayana Guru's religious...the great Ilava association, Sri Narayana Dharma Paripalana...north, and the movement of Sri Narayana Guru in Kerala. In... Check item Full Text (PDF) Table of Contents MatchMaker

Sudha Rai The Journal of Commonwealth Literature, Dec 2005; vol. 40: pp. 109 - 138.
...25 [representations of politics in literature from India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh]. A History of Hindi Literature F.E...Chatterjee 275pp Indialog (New Delhi) pa. Tagore's Chitra and Aurobindo's Savitri: A Comparative Study Ketki N. Pandya 176pp Atlantic... Check item Full Text (PDF) Table of Contents MatchMaker

Which Leadership Modet—Gandhian or Machiavellian?
L.M. Bhole Journal of Human Values, Oct 2001; vol. 7: pp. 131 - 145.
...Chaitanya, Ramakrishna, Ramana Maharshi, Aurobindo, etc. are failures and ruined. There...decimated in Punjab, Kashmir, Assam, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Ireland, Palestine...on Leadership (Prasanathi Nilayam: Sri Sqathya Sai Books, 1993). 4. The list... Check item Abstract Full Text (PDF) Table of Contents MatchMaker

Hindu-Muslim Relations in Swadeshi Bengal, 1903-1908
Sumit Sarkar Indian Economic & Social History Review, Jan 1972; vol. 9: pp. 161 - 216.
...brief account of his contacts with Aurobindo's circle established through Shyamsundar...obtained through the courtesy of Sri Sukumar Mitra). 104. Halliday to Carlyle...obtained through the courtesy of Sri Arani Banerji). 118. Mihir-O-Sudhakar... Check item Full Text (PDF) Table of Contents MatchMaker

From Frenzied Progress to Serene Perfection
Journal of Human Values, Apr 1996; vol. 2: pp. 1 - 2.
...utilitarian catas- trophe ? It is instructive to listen to Sri Aurobindo on 'progress': Modern society has discovered...plagiarization of old wisdom). Let us then go back with humility to Aurobindo again: Intellectual, volitional, ethical, emotional, aesthetic... Check item Full Text (PDF) Table of Contents MatchMaker

Mechanical reproduction and the world of the colonial artist
Partha Mitter Contributions to Indian Sociology, Feb 2002; vol. 36: pp. 1 - 32.
...revolutionary societies in early 20th century Bengal, notably Aurobindo Ghosh's Bhawani Mandir (Chatterji 1992; Hobsbawm 1965...of prosperity; Siva and his family; Krishna 18 Figure 3: Sri Sri Mahadev (Siva), chromolithograph, Calcutta Art Studio... Check item Abstract Full Text (PDF) References Table of Contents MatchMaker

The Ecumenical Route
Christian Godin Diogenes, Jan 1996; vol. 44: pp. 119 - 136.
...modern India are all ecumenists: Ramakrishna, Vivekananda, Aurobindo, Gandhi. For all of them, Krishna and Jesus, Rama and Allah...1975, Vol. IV, p. 912. 7. An independent nation today, Sri Lanka's history is nevertheless pervaded by the influence... Check item Full Text (PDF) Table of Contents MatchMaker

Will India's Past be America's Future?: Reflections on the Caitanya Movement and Its Potentials
K. Klostermaier Journal of Asian and African Studies, Jan 1980; vol. 15: pp. 94 - 103.
...communities. If one considers the century-old endeavour of modern Hindus-from Dayananda Saraswati, to Vivekananda, to Aurobindo, to Radhakrishnan, to Krishnamurti (omitting a great many others)-to prove the harmony of Indian religion and modern science... Check item Full Text (PDF) Table of Contents MatchMaker

Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Paul Ricoeur, and Jean-Luc Nancy

New Book: Phenomenology or Deconstruction?: The Question of Ontology in Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Paul Ricoeur, and Jean-Luc Nancy
from Continental Philosophy by Farhang Erfani

Lucid and rigorous in equal measure, Watkin’s Phenomenology and Deconstruction is both a timely intervention and a critical introduction to a vital current in contemporary European thought. It is also an essential reconfiguration of the intellectual landscape as concerns phenomenology, giving us back the bodies we need, but stranger and richer. –Prof. Patrick ffrench, Department of French, King’s College, London

Description: Phenomenology or Deconstruction? challenges traditional understandings of the relationship between phenomenology and deconstruction through new readings of the work of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Paul Ricoeur and Jean-Luc Nancy. A constant dialogue with Jacques Derrida’s engagement with phenomenological themes provides the impetus to establishing a new understanding of ‘being’ and ‘presence’ that exposes significant blindspots inherent in traditional readings of both phenomenology and deconstruction. In reproducing neither a stock phenomenological reaction to deconstruction nor the routine deconstructive reading of phenomenology, Christopher Watkin provides a fresh assessment of the possibilities for the future of phenomenology, along with a new reading of the deconstructive legacy.

Through detailed studies of the philosophy of Merleau-Ponty, Ricoeur and Nancy, he shows how a phenomenological tradition much wider and richer than Husserlian or Heideggerean thought alone can take account of Derrida’s critique of ontology and yet still hold a commitment to the ontological.

This new reading of being and presence fundamentally re-draws our understanding of the relation of deconstruction and phenomenology, and provides the first sustained discussion of the possibilities and problems for any future ‘deconstructive phenomenology’.

Christopher Watkin is a Junior Research Fellow at Magdalene College, Cambridge. He is currently working on atheism and the death of God in Nancy, Badiou, Zizek and Meillassoux. Link

How strongly and deeply Whitehead’s metaphysics resonates with that of Deleuze

Without Criteria
from The Pinocchio Theory by Steven Shaviro
MIT Press informs me that my new book, Without Criteria: Kant, Whitehead, Deleuze, and Aesthetics, has now been published and will shortly be available (I am supposed to receive my own copies in the next week or so). ( still lists the book as not being published until May 29, but you may be able to order it well before then elsewhere).

Basically, I am arguing that both Whitehead and Deleuze are “neo-Kantians” of a particular sort. Deleuze himself argues, in his early book on Nietzsche, that Nietzsche put Kant on his feet in a manner analogous to how Marx claimed to have put Hegel on his feet; and that, in so doing, Nietzsche radicalized Kant in the way that the official “neo-Kantians” had tried and failed to do. In my book, I extend this claim to both Deleuze himself and to Whitehead. I try to show how Whitehead and Deleuze take certain ambiguous moments in Kant and push them in new directions — thus opening up areas of thought that Kant pointed towards but ultimately withdrew from. Most notably, I argue that Whitehead and Deleuze work with certain problems that are broached in the Third Critique. In the first part of this volume, The Critique of Aesthetic Judgment, Kant explores the possibility of judgments that are singular and noncognitive, not adjudicable by objective criteria, norms or rules. In the second part, The Critique of Teleological Judgment, Kant tackles the problem of living organisms, or of what today we would more broadly call self-organizing systems (which include, but are not restricted to, living organisms), and argues for a kind of double causality, or for a “freedom” (or perhaps undecidability) that supervenes upon traditional linear and mechanistic causality, not being reducible to it, but also not contradicting it.

In Without Criteria, I argue that these two moments in Kant’s thought have the potential to lead us away from the normative and legislative burden of Kant’s thought overall; but also without lapsing into either eliminativist reductionism, or Hegelian dialectics. I see both Whitehead and Deleuze as returning to these strange and “aberrant” moments in Kant, and using them to forge a new direction in metaphysics. One consequence of this new direction is to fulfill the demands of the Speculative Realists for a rejection of what Meillassoux calls correlationism, or the privileging of the human or rational subject, and of the relation between thought and being. My claim is that Whitehead explicitly, and Deleuze implicitly, create an object-oriented philosophy, precisely by arguing that something like Kant’s Transcendental Aesthetic, in which the “forms of sensibility” govern how we respond to objects that we encounter, in fact applies to all interactions whatsoever between objects, and not just to the case of “minds” encountering “external objects.” Rather than either rejecting the very notion of “things in themselves,” as most neo-Kantians have done, or making the correlationist move of dismissing these “things in themselves” as irrelevant to any philosophical discourse, Whitehead transforms the Kantian notion into a recognition (of the sort Graham Harman, in particular, calls for) of the independence of objects from the conditions of our particualar perceptions of them. (I have previously discussed this point here).

Now, my reading of the Speculative Realists has led me to consider two problems with my overall argument, which I do not address in the book, and which therefore I will need to work on further. One of them has to do with my account of Kant’s Critique of Teleological Judgment. Both Toscano and Grant suggest, in different ways, that I haven’t read this part of Kant carefully enough. In particular, they both argue that what I am calling “double causality” — Kant’s contrast between mechanism and organicism — is much more problematic, and internally contradictory, than I have been willing to consider. They both read double causality as an intractable aporia or deadlock; their readings suggest that I can’t get away with simply adapting Kant’s duality to Whitehead’s dualities as cheerfully and unproblematically as I have done. Instead, Toscano describes how this problematic leaves its marks on a progression of thinkers leading through Nietzsche and Simondon, and on to Deleuze; while Grant sees this deadlock as being crucial to, and being displaced and rejected by, Schelling’s Naturephilosophy (together with post-Schelling philosophies of nature, again including that of Deleuze). At the moment, I am still right at the beginning of grappling with this problem; so I cannot be clearer about it than I have been so far.

The second problem has to do, more specifically, with Graham Harman’s reading of Whitehead. Harman indeed praises Whitehead for being object-oriented; that is to say, for refusing to privilege human consciousness, and for making a philosophy that “can range freely over the whole of the world” rather than “remain[ing] restricted to self-reflexive remarks about human language and cognition” (Guerrilla Metaphysics, p. 42). But Harman also criticizes Whitehead (as I mentioned in my previous post) for seeing reality as being entirely relational, rather than accepting the existence of substances, or of “primary qualities” that are irreducible to relational ones. Whitehead, Harman says, “fails to distinguish between objects and elements” (Guerrilla Metaphysics, p. 194), i.e. he fails to consider the “interiors” of objects that are irreducible to the qualities revealed in their relations with other objects. I wrote in my previous post that Harman fails to consider how what Whitehead calls the “prehension” of one object by another involves, not just passive reception, but “contructive functioning.” I will add, here, that Harman also fails to take into account how, for Whitehead, every act of prehension is selective, involving a “subjective aim” on the part of the prehending entity that is not given in advance, and that is not merely the object’s inheritance from other objects. The subjective aim is responsible for the novelty introduced into the world, in greater or lesser measure, by every new entity; it constutitues the “privacy” of the entity, as opposed to the “publicity” by virtue of which it is accessible to other entities in its own turn. My claim is that Whitehead does provide a sense of how an entity is more and other than the sum of its encounters with other entities, and does so precisely without having to resort, as Harman does, to notions of substance and primary qualities. Harman complains that “no relational theory such as Whitehead’s is able to give a sufficient explanation of change” (Guerrilla Metaphysics, p. 82); but to say this is to ignore, once again, the way that an entity’s prehension of other entities always includes more than was present or apprehensible in the other entities. None of this is addressed in the book; and it all needs to be worked out more fully and coherently than I have done here. I hope to do so soon. Stay tuned.

Merleau-Ponty & Meillassoux

Meillassoux III: Rejoinders and Responses
from Larval Subjects by larvalsubjects

In response to this strong argument, Meillassoux points out that while we can concede that these conditions cannot properly be said to exist, we must nonetheless still be able to say there is a transcendental subject (24). That is, the transcendental subject must nonetheless be operative or must take place. In this vein, comments Meillasoux, nothing prevents us from asking “what are the conditions for the transcendental subject or this “taking place” of the transcendental subject?

Meillassoux argues that the transcendental subject remains indissociably linked to a point of view on the world. When we think of Kant’s critical revolution, one of the key concepts of this critique lies in the assertion of our finite relation to the world. It is precisely this that restricts our knowledge to receptivity and ensures that it is always bound to a horizon and that total knowledge can only be a regulative idea. Were our relation to being not governed by finitude, we would have immediate access to the totality of being, thereby undermining Kant’s critique of metaphysics in the transcendental dialectic. There it will be recalled that the paralogisms, antionomies, and ideas of reason all fall into irresolvable conflicts and problems because the subject attempts to go beyond the limits of experience and make claims about the nature of being that exceed our finitude. Thus, the critical gesture– as Heidegger so nicely articulates in Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics –lies in affirming the manner in which our relationship to being is inextricably bound to a point of view or finitude.

It thus follows that the condition for the possibility of the correlationist subject, the transcendental subject, is point of view. But now, our question becomes, what is the condition for the possibility of point of view? Although he does not mention him by name, Merleau-Ponty has the answer. In order for us to have a point of view on the world, we must be attached to a body. If the point of view and the transcendental subject are to be instantiated rather than merely exemplified, if it is to take place, it must be attached to a body from which it cannot be separated. For only the body has a place in the world. But the body is an object among other objects in the world. It is an exemplary object to be sure as Husserl in Ideas II and III and Merleau-Ponty both recognized, but it is nonetheless a physical object. As a result, the transcendental is the condition of bodies (for-us), but the body is the condition of the transcendental. It is the non-empirical condition for the transcendental, for without the body the transcendental could not take place.

Revolutionary, emanicipatory ethical vision based on difference

Beyond Good and Evil: Towards an Experimentalist Ethics
from Larval Subjects by larvalsubjects

Paul had already put his finger on these psychological dynamics two thousand years ago. I perpetually find myself amazed that Christian fundamentalists, in their obsession with the law, do not notice this or see its real daily effects in our country. It is a shame that all of the good words are taken… Words like “Christian”. When I read the Paul of Romans, or the red script in my Bible (i.e., Jesus’ words), what I discern is an ethical philosophy trying to navigate these sorts of sickly psychological deadlocks and social conflicts. Thus when Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek, not to pray in public, not to judge others, to love our neighbors, and when he abolishes the law, everything seems geared towards overcoming these deadlocks and promoting social harmony. All of the things Jesus denounces– praying in public, judging others, hitting back, etc –are things generative of conflict and strife.

How is it that a cult of death arose around a man who said such things? How is it that so many of his followers are obsessed with the moral law? How is it that so many of these followers are convinced that what is important, what is central, is having an absolute faith that makes you a “Christian”, rather than creating a kingdom where Jew and Gentile, Jew, and Roman, and Greek, and Chinese, and Indian, and, and, and… where all are welcome and included while nonetheless remaining what they are? How is it that this revolutionary, emanicipatory ethical vision based on difference comes to be clothed in the most hateful and brutal superstition and cruelty? In short, where all of these ethnic and religious differences become indiscerned, irrelevant? I find it deeply mysterious. I mean, damn it, Luke directly says cites the kingdom of heaven as being here.

Second, there is the Hegelian argument. In the Phenomenology of Spirit, Hegel shows how the truth of Kant’s categorical imperative or moral law is the French Reign of Terror. If the French Reign of Terror is the truth of the categorical imperative or the universal moral law, then this is because the universality of the law, as Kierkegaard observed, degrades all that is particular, or, more properly, all that is singular. We are thus warranted in overstepping the particular– individual people –because what is important is the universal to come and no particulars can ever live up to the moral law. In striving to actualize the ideal man, those behind the Reign of Terror find that every actual human falls short and therefore must be killed. Do we not find this dialectic again and again wherever the universal comes to trump the singular?

Finally, third, there is the Nietzschean argument. Far from being a universal moral law grounded in a Good Will, the moral law, the categorical imperative, is in reality a disguised will to power that seeks to subordinate the other, to divide them from what they can do, and take revenge upon the other through their moral judgment. Do we not sense this sickly spirit of revenge in every moralist obsessed with the moral law? Do we not sense, again and again, that the cruel Nun from our childhood school, that the strict teacher who acts according to principle, that the fundamentalist evangelist secretly takes pleasure in their judgment and punishment?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

What is lucid and light needs the obscure and the shadowy

Apr 5, 2009 (title unknown) from enowning

Light and shadow.
Wherever we may look, the discussion of the principle of reason becomes obscure with its very first steps. And that is how it should be. For we would like to elucidate the principle of reason. What is lucid and light needs the obscure and the shadowy, otherwise there would be nothing to elucidate. Goethe once mentioned a sentence of Johann Georg Hamann, the friend of Herder and Kant. Hamann’s sentence reads: "Lucidity is a suitable apportionment of light and shadow." Goethe added to this briefly and concisely: "Hamann—listens!"

On the Neglected and Underprivileged Metaphors of the Western Tradition from Per Caritatem by Cynthia R. Nielsen

In Greek there are two words, which we translate into English as “idea”: εἶδος (eidos) and ἰδέα (idea). Interestingly, in Greek these works mean something that is seen; however, Plato uses the terms to mean that which is not seen physically, but mentally. Nonetheless, seeing is still the root metaphor pervading his philosophy. Consider some of his most famous images-the cave, the sun, and so on. In the cave, there is no light, no knowledge. When one emerges from the cave into the light, one comes to know (or potentially comes to know) reality by first seeing the things of the sense world and then ascending to the Forms or Ideas in which the sense objects participate and imitate.

As is well-known these days, postmoderns have challenged this privileging of the visual metaphor and have attempted to imagine what it might mean for some of the other senses to serve as a central metaphors. For example, postmodern philosophers and theologians such as Jean-Luc Marion and Catherine Pickstock have written with great effect on the more “neglected” senses such as taste and hearing. Personally, I think that touch offers particularly fertile ground that ought be explored and put to use in philosophy. To be touched is, I submit, something that all humans need.

Ethics and the Moral Law, Part I: Anscombe from Grundlegung by Tom

Finally then, we can go on to consider Hegel as another anti-legalistic thinker who remains in the Christian tradition, but again whose opposition to a law conception of ethics is somewhat different than Anscombe’s critique. The Philosophy of Right does have a place for moral laws within the structures of Sittlichkeit, though arguably in a muted and secondary role. Here though, I shall maintain the religious theme by considering Hegel’s early theological writings, which attack law conceptions of ethics in an even more polemical fashion than Anscombe.

Of particular relevance here is the extended, unpublished essay, ‘The Spirit of Christianity and Its Fate.’ This represents Hegel’s first extended reckoning with Kant and in which the latter’s legalism along with his formalism is indicted. The hero of the tale, who Hegel often opposes to Kant, is Jesus. This is a Jesus who is a radically anti-legalistic figure, as can be seen from a representative passage:

The spirit of Jesus, a spirit raised above morality, is visible, directly attacking laws, in the Sermon on the Mount, which is an attempt, elaborated in numerous examples, to strip laws of legality, of their legal form.

The morality that Jesus is said to be above here is, of course, Kantian Moralität; and the problem with this morality is ineluctably entwined with its articulation in laws to which we are obligated. More fully, this problem is the split that Hegel sees it as nurturing within the subject between reason and inclination, divisively setting two aspects of the subject into conflict.

Hegel’s solution is, unsurprisingly, a complex one but as with Paul there is no straightforward rejection of law. Rather, in a deeply Pauline fashion, Hegel appeals to the fulfilment (πλήρωμα) of law through love: one that, so to speak, suspends its letter in the name of its spirit. The full details would take us too far afield, so all I wish to note are the deep affinities between these two Christian-centric critiques of law conceptions of the ethical. This makes it all the more strange that Hegel never explicitly mentions Paul. Nevertheless, my closing suggestion is that they might be profitably read together against Anscombe as anti-legalistic thinkers who take this opposition to law to be at the very essence of the Christian tradition and not a melancholy necessity imposed by its decline.

No True Scotsman Fallacy Redux from Larval Subjects
Because I love this fallacy so much:

The proposer initially treats the definition of “Scotsman” (i.e., a man of Scottish ancestry and connection) as fixed, and says that there exists no predicated case that falls within that definition. When one such case is found, the proposer shifts to treat the case as fixed, and rather treats the boundary as debatable. The proposer could therefore be seen prejudicially not to desire an exact agreement on either the scope of the definition or the position of the case, but solely to keep the definition and case separate.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Semitic languages and the study of Sanskrit

German Orientalism: The Study of the Middle East and Islam from 1800 to 1945
By Ursula Wokoeck

During the 19th century and the first half of the 20th, German universities were at the forefront of scholarship in Oriental studies. Drawing upon a comprehensive survey of thousands of German publications on the Middle East from this period, this book presents a detailed history of the development of Orientalism.

Offering an alternative to the view of Orientalism as a purely intellectual pursuit or solely as a function of politics, this book traces the development of the discipline as a profession. The author discusses the interrelation between research choices and employment opportunities at German universities, examining the history of the discipline within the framework of the humanities. On that basis, topics such as the establishment of Oriental philology; the process of institutional differentiation between the study of Semitic languages and the study of Sanskrit and comparative linguistics; the emergence of Assyriology; and the partial establishment of Islamic studies are explored.

This unique perspective on the history of Oriental studies in the German tradition contributes to the understanding of the wider history of the field, and will be of great interest to scholars and students of Middle East studies, history, and German history in particular. ISBN: 9780415464901 Published April 20 2009 by Routledge.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Mother's distinction between spiritual realization, spiritual philosophy, occultism and religion

Overview Introduction Integral Yoga Sri Aurobindo The Mother Sitemap Fundamentalism Issues Reviews Annotated Documents Further Documents Standpoints Letters Bio Data Integral Yoga Sri Aurobindo The Mother Feedback about this site may be posted in the comments section to the Announcement of this site at SCIY (login required).

Introduction Issues This section deals with issues that where thrown into stark relief by the recent American publication of The Lives of Sri Aurobindo by Peter Heehs, and by attempts to prevent its publication in India and to expel its author from the Ashram Archives and from the Ashram itself.

Larger Issues of the "Lives of Sri Aurobindo" Controversy The Heehs biography controversy is unfortunately a symptom of a much deeper crisis in the Integral Yoga community, with future repercussions which are hardly optimistic. In this consideration of some of the larger issues involved, the editors of SCIY and other concerned viewers of the phenomenon have drawn attention to what is at stake for all those interested in the Integral Yoga. These are only a few of the more serious ramifications. by Debashish Banerji , Rich Carlson , David Hutchinson , Angiras, Ulrich Mohrhoff Read more...

Yoga, religion, and fundamentalism in the Integral Yoga community Opening remarks by Lynda Lester for a panel discussion at AUM 2007 on fundamentalist tendencies in the Integral Yoga community. Read more...

An examination of the criticism against The Lives of Sri Aurobindo In this essay, Larry Seidlitz, a resident and scholar at Pondicherry, examines the charges being made against the author of The Lives of Sri Aurobindo and attempts to put to rest the exaggerations and misreadings which have been circulated by the ringleaders of the "anti-PH movement" and which have become "authorized truths" to a vast range of "followers" of these ringleaders, most of whom have not read the book. Read more...

The Greyscale Between Religion and Spirituality Rick Lipschutz reflects on the continuum which stretches from religion to spirituality. Drawing on the Mother's distinction between spiritual realization, spiritual philosophy, occultism and religion and her perception of a complementarity in their workings, the author calls for a more integral understanding of the yoga and its stages and processes. Read more...

Representing Swami Vivekananda: Some Issues and Debates In this article Makarand Paranjape raises two issues and then goes on to discuss the impact of the life and teachings of Swami Vivekenanda (SV). The first issue has to do with how SV has been represented in the secondary literature on him. The second which, in a sense, arises out of the first, has to do with what constitutes a “fact” in a spiritual biography. The author believes that confronting both these issues is necessary in order to have a clearer comprehension of the impact of SV on his world, both in the East and the West.

In their excellent comments to this article, Debashish, Rich, and Angiras point out its relevance to the issues surrounding the publication of The Lives of Sri Aurobindo. Read more...

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Kierkegaard’s critique of Hegel reveals less about Hegel’s philosophy than about the need for Kierkegaard to have a strawman

Bryan Says: April 16, 2009 at 4:31 am
1. I’m not sure you’ve succeeded at that goal of disidentification. Generally speaking, any position that requires the construction of an entire universe of strawmen is suspicious and suggests a huge amount of libidinal investment in what its attacking, rather than the critique itself. Thus, for example, Kierkegaard’s critique of Hegel reveals less about Hegel’s philosophy than about the need for Kierkegaard to have a strawman who goes by the name of “Hegel” (there’s an excellent book on this by Prof. [not comedian] Jon Stewart, but anyhow…). Basically, I think you’re on the wrong track as far as rhetoric goes.

2. I disagree that Zizek is cultural studies, although your language is ambiguous (”falls into the domain…”). This is usually the reading of Zizek that people come away with when they’re not at all deeply engaged in his work and become distracted by the flashy pop culture examples. The fact is, the pop culture analyses are all subordinated to making Lacan and German Idealism understandable. Adrian Johnston’s book, *Zizek’s Ontology*, provides probably the best case of elucidating this point, but even a brief encounter with Zizek’s *Tarrying with the Negative* makes it clear that his main focus is not cultural studies. A much better description would be the reactualization of German Idealism through Lacanian psychoanalysis.

3. I don’t think Lacan simplifies ego psychology (would you honestly claim otherwise?), and as for Piaget and Chomsky, I’m not familiar enough with either. The difference between your argument about correlationism and Lacan’s is that, despite all of the name calling, Lacan’s criticism of ego-psychology is actually quite rigorous (as in Seminars I, II, and III), and also really damning because he gets it right. The same is true of Kant’s critique of Hume and Leibniz. All in all, we may forget exactly who Kant or Lacan or even Marx were criticizing in their texts, but we’ll never forget the critiques, because their critiques are invaluable and will stay with us for a long time.

On the other hand, I don’t think you get Kant right–I think he’s more of a strawman for you.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Indian tradition emphasized that all thinking and philosophy have to be based on an authentic spiritual intuition, experience or revelation

Home About Us Sri Aurobindo Society SAFIM Sri Aurobindo Foundation for Integral Management Archives Contact Us
To be creative,a conception must beclear and coherent, based on a deep insight into the truth and lawand nature and destiny of things

The Role of Creative Vision in Human Development Page 5 of 5 M.S. Srinivasan

So all visions are not creative or equally creative. All fanciful dreaming are not creative visions. To be creative, a conception must be clear and coherent, based on a deep insight into the truth and law and nature and destiny of things. Every great creative vision of an ideal, which is in harmony with the truth and law and destiny of things inevitably, realizes itself. As Sri Aurobindo states:

“The ideal creates the means of attaining the ideal, if it is itself true and rooted in the destiny of the race.“ (7)

If, along with this, the vision or ideal is an integral part of a greater global vision of life seen, realised and projected from a spiritual consciousness, it has an enduring creative power, which can make and remake a nation. Whenever such a spiritual vision is awakened and activated in the consciousness and life of a nation, it will be followed by a great national renaissance and create a new era of all-round progress and prosperity for the nation.

This is the reason why the Indian philosophical tradition emphasized that all thinking and philosophy have to be based on an authentic spiritual intuition, experience or revelation. If the thinker or philosopher doesn't have this spiritual intuition he must be humble enough to base his thinking on the intuitions of wiser men or women of the past or present who have this spiritual wisdom and realisation. In the next issue we will discuss how to implant the vision in the soil of human consciousness and make it into a creative force for action.

The author is a Research Associate at Sri Aurobindo Society and on the editorial board of Fourth Dimension Inc. His major areas of interest are Management and Indian Culture.
References1,2,3. Craig R. Hickman and Michael A. Silva, in Creating Excellence, pp. 149-151. 4. The Mother, Collected Works, Vol. 13, p. 318.5. Sri Aurobindo, Collected Works, Vol.19, p.9446. Sri Aurobindo, Collected Works, Vol.3, p.1637. Sri Aurobindo, Collected Works, Vol.1, 904
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